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The Psychology of It Meets, Diana Kirk, Author of Licking Flames

Image: Courtesy of Diana Kirk Image: Courtesy of Diana Kirk Tim Lukeman & Black Bomb Books

Diana Kirk is a hussy. Who just published her first book. It's called Licking Flames and it's like nothing you've ever read before. But don't just take my word for it - check out her interview with The Psychology of It.

Diana and I just had a debate/Mexican stand-off that lasted 24 hours about whether or not I would publish any mention of blood in this interview. She won.

You see, Diana Kirk doesn’t give a sh*t what anyone thinks about her and that’s why her writing is so appealing. In Licking Flames: Tales of a Half-Assed Hussy, Kirk discloses peeing into her shoe at a new mortuary job, shedding gallons of blood while riding a camel in the desert and the awkward attempts at trying to lose her virginity. And that’s just for starters.

Diana was born in San Francisco, California and has traveled the world extensively. In all, she has visited a total of 37 countries on five continents as well as 46 states of the USA. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and three sons. When she isn’t reminiscing about her almosttruebutnotquite past or writing she works as a real estate investor. She once peed in front of Hillary Clinton.

Ariel Gore author of The End of Eve described Licking Flames as "... like watching Courtney Love sing ‘My Way.’"

And she certainly does do things her way.

“I think a lot of women can relate to stories about our experimentation years and weird friend issues and searching for the parts of life that are interesting. A lot of us have at times, maybe felt like we don’t always fit where we’re living but we’ve got to make the best of it. I think it’s why we cling to high school memories where everything seemed so great but really, quite often wasn’t. We highlight those moments, accentuate over time, work hard to act like we don’t care but we do. These are some of my moments and if I can make you chuckle or shake your head with a mhmm in the process, maybe then we can be our own club of trying to find the interesting parts of life. Looking back on these stories, they are stepping stones of my life.”

For any of you already following Diana on social media, you'll know that no topic is off-limits and she says it how she sees, the more controversial the better.

In this special interview, on the occasion of the release of Licking Flames, Diana opens up to us about her life, her writing, and, well, Hillary Clinton.


First of all, a massive congratulations on your first book, Licking Flames: Tales of a Half-Assed Hussy and thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule since your book launch on December 1st to have a chat with us.
As many of The Psychology of It village will know, you have been a guest writer and also had our very first Conversation on the Couch, so we are extra proud of you becoming a published author for the first time!
Are you ready for this? Okay, here we go.
What was the very first thought you had when you were offered your book deal?

I want to tell you soooo bad that I jumped up and down and my left boob (and honestly larger of the two girls) hit me in the eye. That would be a better story because I’ve got a stellar rack. But I’d already been approached by a reality show a few years ago on TLC, then two literary agents in 2015 (about my writing). I was feeling internal pressure by the time Black Bomb Books wrote me on Facebook with this idea to compile my backlog of personal life essays and posts into a memoirish book format. I guess I wasn’t shocked by the offer. I was shocked I wanted to do it. I hadn’t felt that way before and maybe it was just time to try.

You and I first met online in a writing class and eventually met face-to-face when I joined your family of five in Nicaragua to help you build the charity house you wrote about in Barrio – we’ll come back to that story in a bit – so I feel as though I have some understanding of the person behind the Facebook page. What I want to know though, is how much someone really knows you if they only know you through your Facebook posts? Do they represent the true Diana?

I think this is a funny question from you in particular Jodie because you once told me, I’m exactly like my Facebook posts.

I don’t put a lot of branding on my posts, but I do have some rules. I made them up. Like I won’t share an article. I don’t think people read them.They just read the headlines, and I don’t want to spread headline clickbait. I won’t show too many photos of my kids either. I call those slutty posts because they’re too easy. Everyone will like a photo of a kid. Same with my cat, my husband.

Facebook is a bit of an adult video game for me. What will work, what won’t. I try to keep my Facebook posts mainly about me, and I try to keep them original material. Meaning I make the joke, the pun, the rant, the connection. And I also show different emotions. I’m not always upbeat or angry or funny. I’m human. Just like you, so I do try to show those warring emotions in life. I’d say I’m pretty close to my Facebook “image” minus the energy because a post quite often feels like more energy than we really have. Like the article I wrote before on your website called ‘Outrage.’ We’re all just clicking buttons of rage but reality is we’re also cooking dinner simultaneously.

And P.S. It’s not easy to come up with original content every single day. It’s harder than it looks.

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Diana, you are a strong advocate for women’s rights and equality and you’ve been a very passionate vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton this US election...how much of your support for her has to do with her gender? Do you believe we will live to experience true equality in our lifetime? Why/Why not?

Misogyny doesn’t just occur with men. People forget this all the time. It occurs with women too. And the more vocal the woman, the bigger the target. I know this myself because I’m vocal, I’m opinionated and sometimes, abrasive. I’ve been a target more times than I can count throughout my life. Now I’ve got female writers in my circle that have spent an enormous amount of their energy attempting to undermine my efforts. Calling me a bully because I don’t handle them with kid gloves. But this is what women do to one another. They can’t get real with themselves or other women because they’re scared of this powerful energy women hold inside. And their insistence we be sensitive and nice is part of the pigeon holed problem we women have historically been relegated to.

I insist we don’t have to be. Women do not have to be sensitive and nice and show all of their scars in order to be women.

Yes, I am a huge Hillary fan because of gender. Because she’s the strongest person I’ve ever seen despite the fact she’s been surrounded by people that have tried to tear her down, shame her and make her cower. But she has always stayed true to course. Which is getting shit done by showing up, chin up. By not apologizing, by not falling into those female socially acceptable roles such as an apologetic female. Michelle Obama is looked up as a role model now because Hillary broke the mold when she was First Lady. She stopped the constant decorating and pretty clothes First lady we had before such as Nancy Reagan and Jackie Kennedy. Nope, Hillary showed up and said, “Bill, step aside, I’m gonna be a Senator, then a Secretary of State and maybe President.” I mean..I cannot even fathom the depth of that kind of internal drive. And I’ve got a lot of internal drive.

But right now, today, I’m still in mourning like so many of my feminist sisters. We elected an online troll to be our President. Elected by the men I expected to vote for a frat boy but also by women that feared Hillary’s strength and change. Which happens when an outsider pushes role models and boundaries. It was shocking as hell and 63 million people in my country are still in mourning. Election day in January will be a funeral. The protests will be big. I hope. I hope the world knows how many people never wanted him to be President and will not tolerate his bullshit to the point of violence.

Will things be equal in my lifetime? No. But I hold faith in Hillary’s words...”Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.” And we are. It’s up to us to make it equal. And I plan to continue pushing boundaries and walls wherever I come upon them until women act like they belong in a position of equality. Where nobody cares what’s happened to them but instead cares about how they hold themselves now.

Your book, Licking Flames, is a very candid invitation into some significant times in your life including meeting and falling in love with your husband Steve (my favorite story). You’ve also been open in writing about your attempted suicide at age 13. I’m keen to know how the process of writing about such emotive memories was for you and if that changed at all through the drafts. Have you ever hesitated about sharing such personal stories so publicly knowing that your children will one day read your book?

I took a story out of my book called ‘Trolls.’ It’s about modern sex trafficking and AIDS in Africa. It’s probably the most significant piece I’ve ever written and it covers a lot of emotions. It also really upsets people and the editors felt it didn’t belong in this collection. Perhaps in a collection of travel stories. It would definitely be something I would hesitate sharing with my nine year old right now. Mainly because I can barely explain what I saw. It was so awful.

When it comes to personal stories that have “happened” to me, I don’t hesitate. I’m a story teller and anything in this book has been told on repeat since it happened. It’s not new for me to share candid moments or epiphanies and my kids know most of the stories already. The only thing I attempted to do consciously was to not make it out as if I’m a strong woman NOW because of those moments THEN. I wanted the arc to show who I am...someone bound and determined to live life my way. Including recovering from what I could not control about my own childhood. I don’t feel shame for how I’ve recovered or for what happened to me. Shame is not an emotion I equate much with. If you read my Facebook page, you’d see that. I make fun of myself a lot because I am kind of ridiculous at times. I’m eating nothing but veggies for three days then McDonald’s. I don’t want to ever limit myself in what I share and don’t share because of how people might perceive me. I’ve tried those shoes on. They’re mighty uncomfortable and lonely.

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I'm also interested to know what you would do if you could never write another single word.

Writers talk a lot about craft and how to be a great Pulitzer Prize winning writer. I don’t. I’ve always thought of myself as a storyteller first, a writer second. My editor pointed out with this book that I’ve got a way with story endings. I thought about her comment and realized it’s because I’ve been telling these stories for years. I’ve learned a bit on the art of punchlines. So that’s just how I write. So if I could never write again? I wouldn’t truly care. I’d still be the person at the party telling everyone about the time in Morocco I leaked blood all over the back of a camel.

I took your book to India and you commented on the value of having your words out in the world. Can you tell us more about that?

First off, India is my favorite country in the world. The people are so beautiful wrapped in reds and golds with fresh flowers in their hair, eating dishes made with eighteen different spices and then they touch the ass of a cow and bless themselves before climbing into their one room mud hut with a dirt floor. It’s just a mind fuck of a country and so knowing you were going to be bringing my book there, had me so excited. But really it’s because I’ve traveled the world and read sooooooo many books on hostel book shelves scattered about the planet. The idea that a young twenty something backpacker in Calcutta might pick up my book and read my chapter called Cheaper Heroin about British drug addicts in Sri Lanka...thrilled me beyond words. I hope that young travelers remember the small moments they’re seeing and can one day relate it to global politics or addiction or a movie. I hope they can connect the dots in life to a bigger picture that I’ve tried to show in some of my own travel stories.

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Now back to Nicaragua where we built a house in 45 (110 F) degree heat with the most primitive of tools, struggling with our consciences as we returned home everyday to our holiday rental with a swimming pool in the lounge room, leaving behind the family who would live in the house without a roof or four walls for the first few days. You tell the story of how when the house was complete, the matriarch of the family was less than impressed with the result. My question to you is knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently? If so, what?

No way would I change a thing. It was awkward and so physically uncomfortable. I mean we were sweating on our knees. Holy shit, do you remember that? The heat was sickening. But my kids did it. They watched the other kids living in the barrio go to school with no shoes, they played the same games with wooden tops and rocks, they used rusty dull hand saws when we were building the house and watched the family cook lunch over an open fire. Somewhere inside my children, they absorbed all of it. I don’t know how much of an impact it’ll make on their future, but my intention is that it’ll open their eyes globally and think of themselves as global citizens, not just Americans. We volunteered in Guatemala when they were younger with even poorer kids. They’ve visited schools in Thailand and Malaysia too. Just the other day, my youngest son gave a woman at the grocery store $2 of his own money to help homeless with Thanksgiving food. He told the homeless volunteer it was because, “I’ve been to other countries. I’ve seen what really hungry looks like.” So although the entire experience was not some glorious gratitude Facebook post because of angry contractors and dissatisfied matriarchs, I tried my hardest to impart to my family that in the end, the family had a roof over their heads, a locked door, windows, an oven and it was the best WE could do as one small family.

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If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it has been for you, what did you achieve?

Well, since I’m a business woman by day, I’d like to sell enough books for my publisher to be proud they took this chance with me. My financial success means they’re able to give more first time writers a shot. Those book sales might catapult me to another book deal with a bigger house. Which would be quite an achievement. I’m new to this writing world and it’s very hard to “get heard.” I’m trying to decide right now which direction to go in next. I’m really good live. On stage. When I read the story ‘Pink Wrestle Mania’ live, it’s hilarious. So I’m hoping to get more opportunities to perform those pieces. That would be quite an achievement.

But honestly, if I could get myself and my family to Australia and see some of those crazy damn insects you guys claim to have...I’d feel pretty successful.

Lastly, who are your ideal audience for Licking Flames?

You. People with a sense of humor. People that don’t get offended easily. People that can think for themselves without fear of reproach. And people that can chuckle at the ridiculousness of this thing called life.

Diana Small

Thank you to Diana for taking time out to talk with us. If you'd like to purchase a copy of Licking Flames: Tales of a half-assed hussy, it's available on Amazon.

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A note from Diana: 

Please drop me a note or come visit me on Facebook or Twitter where I post incredibly inappropriate and sometimes controversial words that are strung together in run-on sentences. Rant with me, bitch with me, laugh about bladder control. It’s all there for us to squee over!



Or drop me a note because I’ll totally answer

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